I have to say, chocolate bread is really difficult to photograph in an appetizing way, especially in indoor lighting! I am happy to say that this bread tastes much better than it looks.
When the We Should Cocoa challenge was announced for this month with a theme of “butter”, I instantly thought of chocolate brioche. Brioche is typically a white bread of French origin which is enriched with egg and lots of butter to make a rich, fine crumbed bread. It’s more cake-like than bread-like, but it is not as sweet as cake. In addition to making a chocolate version of brioche, I decided to leaven it entirely with my sourdough starter. Chocolate and sourdough are good partners and I liked it in this chocolate brioche as well.
I started with a recipe that I’ve had on my bucket list for a long time and converted it to use sourdough starter. The original recipe is a brioche-like chocolate bread from the November 1993 issue of Chocolatier magazine. How I miss that publication! I substituted out some of the water and flour for my starter and made a sponge that I let sit overnight until it was nice and bubbly. I then continued with the recipe as written, omitting the commercial yeast. A soft dough is made in the mixer and then many tablespoons of softened butter are beaten into the dough one at a time until fully incorporated into a moist dough. After a first rise at room temperature, the dough is refrigerated up to 2 days before using so that the butter can solidify and make the dough workable.
The main difference in using sourdough starter is that it is a much slower process than with commercial yeast. It’s a good project for a day when you can be home and at the beck and call of the dough. With this in mind, I took my dough out of the fridge early in the morning. I shaped it into 12 balls and placed 6 balls into each bread pan. I let the bread rise until late afternoon when it was nearly doubled in size and sprung back most of the way when poked. A quick brushing with egg wash for shine and into the oven it went. Since it’s hard to tell when enriched breads are done, especially when they as dark as this bread, I used a thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 190F/88C.
After an excruciating wait for the bread to cool down, I was able to enjoy my treat! It was very tasty – rich but not too sweet and with a nice tang from the sourdough. It’s perfect warmed up for an afternoon treat with some butter or hazelnut spread on top. I’ll be making chocolate brioche again!
- For the sponge:
- 340g warm water
- 132g granulated sugar
- 404g bread flour
- 162g 100% hydration active sourdough starter
- For the dough:
- 136g bread flour
- 142g light brown sugar
- 79g dutch-processed cocoa powder (natural cocoa inhibits yeast)
- 1 tsp. instant espresso powder (optional)
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 12 tablespoons butter, softened
- Egg Glaze:
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. water
- Mix together the sponge ingredients in a mixing bowl. Cover loosely and allow to sit at room temperature until bubbly, several hours or overnight.
- Add the flour-salt from the dough ingredients and mix in a stand mixer until the dough comes together in a ball.
- Mix in the egg until incorporated. Beat for 2-3 minutes at medium until the dough is smooth and elastic. If necessary, add a little more flour or water to reach the right consistency.
- Switch to a dough hook and beat in 1 Tbsp. of butter at a time until fully incorporated.
- Knead the dough on medium for another 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Cover with a towel and let it rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 2 days.
- Butter two 8"x4" bread pans.
- Deflate the dough by kneading it a few times on a lightly floured board. Divide the dough in half and then shape each half into 6 balls.
- Place 6 balls into each bread pan, zig-zagging to fit.
- Cover loosely and let rise until puffy and the dough bounces back most of the way when poked.
- Preheat the oven to 400F/204C.
- Beat the egg wash ingredients well and brush the tops of the loaves with the wash.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 375F/190C and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Use a thermometer to test that the internal temperature is 190F/88C to determine if the bread is fully baked.
- Cool on a rack for 15 minutes and then remove from pans to cool completely.